By on April 27, 2016

Chevrolet Cavalier

No matter who you are or what status you hold in society, at some point in the past 34 years you did something in a Chevrolet Cavalier, and it was probably a lackluster experience (barring anything in the backseat, though even then…).

For reasons unknown, the nameplate that once summed up everything that was wrong with domestic compacts will return to the automotive landscape on a China-only Chevrolet model, GMInsideNews reports.

The name will return on a compact model built by SAIC General Motors Corporation, hopefully without the peeling paint, tinny body panels and bargain basement plastic that graced its American-market predecessor.

Chevrolet Cavalier

Slotted between the Cruze and subcompact Sonic in terms of size, the new compact adopts plenty of Cruze styling up front but not much in the rear, if photos leaked to the Chinese media are accurate.

GMInsideNews notes that the Cavalier shares an identical wheelbase to the Daewoo Lacetti, which underpins the Chinese market Buick Excelle. Their sources claim the Cavalier will come with a 1.5-liter four-cylinder that makes 109 horsepower, which probably pulls better than the American version’s pre-Ecotec four-cylinder.

Jokes aside, the original Cavalier (1982-2005) wasn’t all bad, with this writer professing some admiration for the second-generation coupe, but only if equipped with the torquey 3.1-liter V6. The others? More disposable than a free pen.

[Images: Autohome.com.cn]

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87 Comments on “China Resurrects a Great Nameplate for a New Chevy: ‘Cavalier’...”


  • avatar
    ajla

    “which probably pulls better than the American version’s pre-Ecotec four-cylinder.”

    Please, the Q4 and Twin-Cam would kick the crap out of this 1.5L, right up until their head gaskets disintegrated.

    • 0 avatar
      rpn453

      Must have been thinking of the 2.2L or 2.0L OHV engines. For a compact car, the 2.4L DOHC is a strong engine across the entire rev range, with a nice growl under full throttle.

      The one that I maintain is now approaching 250k miles and still going strong.

  • avatar

    I don’t live in China, so I can afford to be “Cavalier” about this revoltin’ development. Two whole generations of Americans gave up on both GM and domestic cars because of nameplates like this.

    • 0 avatar
      Cactuar

      That is a correct assessment sir. Personally I refuse to purchase a car from a domestic automaker because of past cars like the Cavalier. No matter how good people say the new cars are, I don’t believe for a second that the culture that allowed terrible products like the Cavalier is entirely gone.

    • 0 avatar
      dukeisduke

      As I said one time, the name “Cavalier” described the attitudes of both the designers and assemblers of those cars.

  • avatar

    Is GM’s Chinese team determined to echo the success of the Roger Smith era?

    • 0 avatar
      DeadWeight

      Why not?

      Mary Barra’s pulling down a cool 28 million in total compensation per year and GM’s back to its idiocy post taxpayer/government bailout.

      GM’s also rapidly expanding production of vehicles abroad to import into the United States (Buicks, Chevys and Cadillacs) – and they’re just getting started.

      But hey, the cheapest-part-bid-will-always-win method, while doing owners of GM vehicles no good, will float the lofty salaries of GM’s (incompetent) executives, until another bailout is required.

      http://www.autonews.com/article/20150511/OEM10/305119952/gm-to-suppliers:-lets-see-books-not-bids

      “GM sometimes demanded that suppliers match or beat the company’s “China price” — supposedly the lowest price in the world for any given auto part.

      For that and other reasons, GM has consistently scored poorly in annual supplier surveys conducted by Planning Perspectives Inc., a suburban Detroit consulting firm.

      Last year’s survey ranked GM sixth in supplier relations among North American automakers, trailing Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Ford and Chrysler. Planning Perspectives is to publish a new survey this month.”

  • avatar
    sirwired

    My contempt for the Cavalier could be summed up with one trait: The DollarTree-hairbrush-bristle surround for the gearshift in the one I rented once, because The General couldn’t be arsed for a cheap plastic surround from the GM parts bin.

    Nothing else better sums up the complete and total contempt for the customers that were suckered into buying one of those things. (Okay, that and the people that inexplicably bought the Cimarron.)

  • avatar
    DeadWeight

    “Jokes aside, the original Cavalier (1982-2005) wasn’t all bad, with this writer professing some admiration for the second-generation coupe, but only if equipped with the torquey 3.1-liter V6.”

    One of the worst vehicles of its time, or any other time, that was so bad, in fact, that it made the subsequent Cobalt, IF ONLY BY RELATIVE STANDARDS, look good (and the Cobalt was a big pile of meh).

    Steph Williams opines on the merit of the 1982-2005 cycle Cavalier (notice how that’s a 23 year model run, by the way).

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Let’s tone down the J-body hate, it was one of the finest piles of sh*t money could buy for 23 years.

    • 0 avatar
      Steph Willems

      Not long ago, if you had three figures in your bank account, you could afford to buy a late 80s/early 90s Cavalier V6 – which actually had power – to tide you over for a year, or serve as a first car (or both, usually). Everything else was out of your league, unless you wanted to go nowhere fast in a Tempo. As a broke teenager, I’d have gone with the Cavalier.
      I knew the drivetrain well – I once owned a Corsica – and friends inevitably had a Cavalier of the era.It would go like stink, unless you had a 3-speed, at which point it would bog down in third gear at about 60 mph.
      The name’s also ‘Willems’. I don’t want my Belgian ancestors getting upset.

      • 0 avatar
        "scarey"

        But why did your Belgian ancestors name you ‘Stephanie” ? Or is ‘Steph’ a millennial thing ?

        • 0 avatar
          Steph Willems

          My name is Steph because people were always getting my first name wrong. DeadWeight’s post should serve as Exhibit A on my last name. At some point, you just want someone to say your first or last name right. Neither has more than seven letters, but it seems to be a challenge.

          • 0 avatar
            DeadWeight

            I’m going to be serious: Your last name is the kind where most people (at least Americans or Canadians) probably go into default “Williams” mode before carefully detecting that it’s actually a much more rare spelling, Mr. Willems.

            Be that as it may, when I type “Willems” on my tablet, stupid autocorrect changes it to “Williams,” so if I refer to you as “Steph Williams” again, I’m blaming WordPerfect.

            (Autocorrect also automatically changes “Steph” to “Story\'” for some reason.)

          • 0 avatar
            DeadWeight

            p.s. – Autocorrect also changes “autocorrect” to “WordPerfect.” See response above.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            I wouldn’t mess with zee Belgians, DW. They are so powerful they have their own beer type.

          • 0 avatar
            DeadWeight

            Belgians make the finest beers/ales in the world, by a mile. Those Trappist Monks are brew masters of the highest order, and literally turn grain into gold.

            This is a subject near & dear to my heart.

  • avatar
    ajla

    This does look okay, but I’d just wait for the Cadillac version.

  • avatar
    threeer

    More and more, GM feels like they consider the US as an after thought. Getting harder and harder to consider another one once we drive the wheels off of our (admittedly bought used and not new) 2013 Cruze.

  • avatar
    oldowl

    The U.S. version will be the Roundhead.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    Looking very much like a sawn-off and creased Chevy SS.

    I’m curious as to why they didn’t just build a lower-spec version of the Cruze to occupy this segment…sort of like the recently-introduced “L” trim for the outgoing Cruze, which slots below the previously-base LS. If they had to engineer a whole new car in order to cut costs, then either the Cruze (which is different for the Chinese market, BTW) is very very good…or this new Cavalier is very very bad.

    Or maybe they’re trying to make the Cruze look like a more up-market option by introducing a bargain sedan below it. In many parts of the world, the compacts we have here (Jetta, Cruze, Focus, Sentra, Dart, Civic, Corolla, etc…) would be considered premium.

  • avatar
    VW16v

    Will Cadillac be building the Cimarron for the Chinese market

  • avatar
    JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

    And no mention of Ford’s China-only Escort? Seems like they got this idea from the Blue Oval guys, since I believe the Ford Escort is already on sale there.

    I say Ford and GM should bring these stateside as bargain basement offerings and to populate rental fleets. Painted steel wheels, roll-your-own windows, vinyl seats, starting price $8,999 (or less). It would give the Focus and Cruze an elevated status (including higher resale, transaction prices, etc), since Escort and Cavalier would be playing for the bottom feeders. Some people want (or need) only basic transportation, and a new car with a warranty for the price of a used, almost-out-of-warranty car could be a winner.

    • 0 avatar
      TMA1

      I made the same comment earlier, but it got eaten. Yeah, if anyone wants to be mad about this, be angry that GM had to steal the idea from Ford.

      The Chinese can be tricked into thinking any foreign brand name can be premium, which explains $44 bottles of Pabst Blue Ribbon and $150 Lee jeans.

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        I hate PBR. It tastes like raccoon urine. It’s so abundant here in Oklahoma, though,

        • 0 avatar
          zerofoo

          Having never tasted raccoon urine, I’ll have to take you at your word….

          • 0 avatar

            I went to college in Western NY and still have many friends there. If you prefer supporting regional equivalents, there is Genessee beer and its “upscale” Cream Ale. They are “brewed on the banks of the Genessee River” and taste accordingly.

          • 0 avatar
            honda_magna85

            I have lived my entire life in central NY. My dad drank Genny Cream, so when i was 13 or 14 years old i was stealing Genny Creams from the basement to drink with my friends. Needless to say i never had a problem drinking shitty keg beer in high school/college.

        • 0 avatar
          Hydromatic

          Budweiser is what I’d imagine chilled horse piss to taste like, so I feel you on PBR.

      • 0 avatar
        HEOJ

        To GM credit(good or bad depending on your point of view) they have been doing this song and dance in the subcompact arena for decades, right down in Mexico. The Corsa B was sold as the Chevrolet Chevy right along side the Corsa C sold as the Chevrolet Corsa. The Corsa C was replaced by Aveo by the Chevy(Corsa B) still sold along side it until 2012 at which time the Aveo became the cheaper older subcompact sold along side the new Modern Sonic, which is still the arrangement in Mexico right now. VW also beat them to the punch selling various generations of Jetta at the same time in Mexico and Canada. At one point the 3rd, 4th, & 5th generation Jetta were on sale in Mexico all the same time for at least one year! The 3rd was the Clasico, 4th was Bora, and the 5th was Jetta.

  • avatar
    TrailerTrash

    I really liked my little brother’s 1985(ish) black Z24.
    Little car with its stick and cool sounding exhaust was a pretty nice looking little car.
    That black with silver lower body cladding was really a decent looking and running car.

    and my daughter’s 2001 car was a solid little car for her through high school. Pretty good power in the 6 as well.

  • avatar
    doublechili

    For 20 years Cavalier = dirt cheap fleet auction transportation purchase.

  • avatar
    Corollaman

    In 1990, while my 86 Camry was in the body shop, the ins company rented me a new 2 door Cavalier and though it was new, I could not wait for my car to get fixed, it seemed like an eternity. Horrible POS.

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    “I really liked my little brother’s 1985(ish) black Z24.
    Little car with its stick and cool sounding exhaust was a pretty nice looking little car.
    That black with silver lower body cladding was really a decent looking and running car.”

    I knew a few people that had those Z24’s in that vintage. Nice cars and I’d rather have driven one of those over any Cvic or Corolla.

    • 0 avatar
      DeadWeight

      The Z24 had one of the worst suspension setups I’ve ever experienced in any vehicle, of any era.

      It was so bad that if one truly didn’t know for a fact that the vehicle hadn’t been wrecked & rebuilt, they’d be positive that it had been.

  • avatar
    True_Blue

    The original Cavalier is rightfully derided for its mouse-fur seats and knock-off Rubbermaid dash, but the plain-Jane four door 2.2 is the cockroach of the automotive plains – I still see mid-nineties editions rocking their rusty-teal flaked paint jobs all throughout lower income areas. They may have been vehicular penalty boxes but they are simple enough to keep rolling 20+ years on.

    A past girlfriend had a black ’99 Z/24, done in at 83K by a headgasket, body-rot everywhere, and a broken strut mount. I repaired what I could, when I could, but the trifecta was too much. I still recall it having a great transmission though.

  • avatar
    jimbob457

    My God! Has not GM any shame.

  • avatar

    I dub this the “catfish” era of vehicular styling. Every other new sedan these days seems to be in the process of melting or scowling. So many have–in the face–the same scowl of the grand demon in “The Gate”.

  • avatar
    thornmark

    Hmm. “Cavalier” means “showing a lack of proper concern”.

    Seems they nailed it.

  • avatar
    CincyDavid

    Well, Caprice means “an impulsive change of mind”, which isn’t exactly a sterling quality either.

  • avatar
    John

    1982 was around the time the genital herpes epidemic began, is that the Cavalier’s back seat’s claim to fame?

  • avatar

    Cavaliers and Sunfires can be purchased for $900 with power windows, CD stereo, and an automatic then immediately – without any regard for maintenance currency – endure a night-time meth-fueled police pursuit on rain-drenched washboard roads through two rural counties ending with a 25-MPH head-on run into a 90 year-old oak and STILL have the gumption to keep running long enough for baby-momma’s aunt to pick it up from impound and take it to Winn-Dixie for lotto tickets and $1.59/lb pork loins for MeeMaw’s 85th birthday.

    If that’s not the exemplar of a robust, all-American car, what is?

    • 0 avatar
      DeadWeight

      You know that customer base well!

      Dan Foss would be impressed & hire you for the C-Suite!

    • 0 avatar
      Silent Ricochet

      My buddy owned a 2001 Sunfire and smashed it into a tree doing about 20 mph on the way to a social gathering one day. He came rolling up with a lopsided bumper, hood that didn’t fit and plastic crushzones falling out everywhere from the front end. Absolutely hilarious after we found out he was okay. He drove that car for another two years with zero problems.

      Another friend of mine with a 99 Cavalier recently spun out on the interstate in an ice storm and smashed headfirst into the guard rail. He absolutely demolished the guard rail, but the front bumper had nothing but scuffs on it. He drove away and went to work after contacting the police. For whatever reason, those bumpers were indestructible. He’s still driving that thing too. Can’t believe it.

      • 0 avatar
        tresmonos

        I smoked the rear end of a Mazda with my 2001 z24 on I94 after driving a company car with adaptive cruise for 8 months straight. Bumper just got pushed up a bit into the quarter panels but no noticeable damage. My car felt like it bounced off of the other vehicle.

    • 0 avatar
      tresmonos

      This is gold.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      Hahahaha can we just give Flybrian his own segment on TTAC? I can read this all day. Coming from the land of W-bodies with missing body panels, lifted B-bodies on steelies awaiting the owner’s trip to Rim Tyme, 1g Expeditions on badly bent paid-for-by-the-week ’24s, early 2000s Kia Optimas laying down oil smoke screens, and W220 S-classes on blown air shocks driven by neighborhood drug lords, I can relate.

      I listened to an NPR piece on neighborhood beat policing in Indy this morning, they focused on a particularly troubled/violent near-Eastside neighborhood (without naming names aside from one street) and the officer that patrols it…. turns out that they were talking about an area not a 10 minute walk away :/

      • 0 avatar

        Gtemnykh, you’d love the two I just took in trade – a ’00 Expedition and ’02 Explorer with about 550k miles between them. I’ve never driven two vehicles that were just so…TIRED…

        • 0 avatar
          gtemnykh

          Do tell! My mechanic brother really loathes that 3rd gen Explorer generation, it seems that just about EVERYTHING can/will fail on those (specifically the V6/5spd auto models) after 150k. The 2nd gen trucks (95-01 jellybean generation) seems to be a better fit for jalopy duty, simpler Ranger-based hardware that takes abuse better, especially if it’s the more basic pre-OHC 4.0L OHV motor, or the 5.0 mated to the 4R70. I see a ton of these in the hood, and even more so in Mexico when I’m down there for work.

          The 1g Expeditions seem to cling on to life rather well, albeit in a very decrepit sort of way once they reach the BHPH lot. I remember back home the house across the street started to be rented to Section 8, we had some ‘lovely’ neighbors that drove a RWD 1g Expedition with bald tires and blown rear air suspension. I remember them bouncing that poor truck off the rev limiter trying to get out of an icy driveway. They could of course do some shoveling themselves, or put down some kitty litter or sand. But of course not, the land lord is responsible for plowing and that’s that. Never mind that they literally had all day to sit around and do nothing…

  • avatar
    zerofoo

    My 87 Cavalier Z-24 was cheap and fun to drive. Bought it for cheap and drove the nuts off of it through college.

    The only thing that routinely went bad in that car was the stupid digital dash and the water pump.

    In the end, it was a car for a kid – I wasn’t sad to see it go when I traded it.

  • avatar
    Silent Ricochet

    “(barring anything in the backseat, though even then…)”

    Hey now. Some of the best nights of my high school years were had in the backseat of a Cavy. That 4-foot wide backseat is a lot more spacious than it looks, especially if you move the front seats up first.

    Anyways, I’m not sure why they’re reviving the nameplate, it should stay dead as its reputation is pretty much shot. I’ll always have a soft spot in my heart for Cavaliers, especially the Z24 model. They weren’t bad little cars for the money and were fun to hoon around in, but they certainly weren’t the epitome of quality.

  • avatar
    Superdessucke

    Ha! A Chinese made Chevy. China is about to gain a new word for “toilet.”

  • avatar
    Corollaman

    At one time the Cav was sold alongside the much better Prizm, the latter got overlooked cause it cost more than the Cav. I bet most buyers regretted the choice they made.

  • avatar
    ToddAtlasF1

    Of the various awful GM compacts, I felt the Cobalt was the least bad. The dash wasn’t repellent to look at and touch. The engines all had appropriate levels of power and the naturally aspirated ones seemed relatively durable. The ride and handling was at least a match for any other domestic compact. Still, GM killed the nameplate after one generation and six model years. Were they preparing for the ignition switch scandal to break? Cavaliers were the butts of jokes for twenty years before GM saw fit to change model names.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      Agreed. They weren’t yet up to the par set by the better imports, but Cobalts by and large were/are pretty solid rides. Very rust resistant (much more so than Cavaliers), and with the torquey Ecotec 2.4, move out pretty nicely even with the automatic. With the stick shift, I’d call them genuinely quick for the class for that time period. The 5spd cars also get pretty awesome highway mpg, that big four let them gear it tall. Okay so the interior is very middling and seat comfort not that great.

  • avatar
    06V66speed

    I didn’t hate my 86 Sunbird GT hatchback.

    I found the tachometer which was rotated roughly counter-clockwise roughly 90 degrees or so to be somewhat intriguing. And the orange backlit gauges in Pontiac fashion…. Goooooo!!! Excitement!!

    The flip-up headlamps were junk and the slightest misalignment threw them out of adjustment.

    Even with the coarse 1.8L it returned subpar mileage.

    The slushbox it had WAS leaps and bounds better than my ex-wife’s ’07 Chevy Aveo (in which the Aveo, admittedly, needed its transmission to “warm up” prior to engaging its highway gear/overdrive gear)…

    Ok, ok. Yes, yes, I’ll be frank. J-Bodies were in fact a pile. This Cavalier will be no different.

    Prepare to feel the Cavalier’s wrath, China. Don’t come crying to us. You all fostered this!! Lol

  • avatar
    mikehgl

    About another ten years or so and the Z24s, convertibles and low mileage creampuffs will be showing up at auto shows. The cars was bargain basement el cheapo transpo for the millenial generation and beyond. Hence some of their most cherished automotive memories were spawned in these claptraps, front and back seats.
    Fond memories = nostalgia. Nostalgia = desirability.

  • avatar
    edward aguilar

    was a bestseller car in usa and canada

  • avatar
    PentastarPride

    Cavalier isn’t a name to resurrect.

    LeBaron is, but only Chrysler can lay claim to that one.

    That said, it seems as if Cavaliers are not so disposable as I see a few every time I’m out. 99% are in very poor condition but seem to put along.

    It’s a very mediocre car indeed but admittedly, GM did something right for these to endure lack of basic maintenance from their (typically) fiscally-challenged owners.

  • avatar
    vwgolf420

    My mother had a 1986 two door base model when I was a kid.Her cousin was a Chevy salesman at the time. He’s sold her a brand new 1982 Chevette that she then traded on the Cavalier when the Chevette’s transmission was going at 45,000. The Cav leaked oil early on and it never could be fixed. Finally threw a rod at 40,000 and she bought a 1989 Mazda 323 that ran without a hitch for the five years she owned it.

  • avatar
    rcx141

    The British Vauxhall Cavalier was a superb car, especially the mk2 and mk3 versions. Our company had several which reached over 200,000 miles, on the same clutch and same engine. They were comfortable over long distances, cheap and simple to work on, economical, and offered great performance.

    They were far, far better than the temperamental Vectra which replaced them in the mid 90s, and infinitely better than the super fragile emissions strangled vehicles Vauxhall now offers.

  • avatar
    NoGoYo

    I’m surprised how many second-gen Z24s I still see in salty old Pennsylvania.

    Guess the 2.8 isn’t so bad.

  • avatar
    namesakeone

    I think what everyone’s saying is, if brought to the United States, the car needs a different name. Is “Vega” taken yet?

  • avatar
    Ryno98

    Bad mouth the Cavalier as you will, but I bought a 96 teal Cavalier with a salvage title in 1997 for my second car after my 1987 Mazda 626 got too expensive to keep fixing. The Mazda definitely had better handling, but I drove the Cavalier for almost 10 years, including wrecking it once. It still ran great when I sold it, and I always had fun with the 5 speed manual. I imagine the automatic would have been pretty miserable, though. My 2007 335i went to the shop more in a 2 year period than the Cavalier did in its entire period of my ownership.

    • 0 avatar
      HEOJ

      I appreciate your appreciation for the j car! I loved the things my first car was a hand me down 88 Sunbird and I actually sought out a 2000 Cavalier to replace it as the first car I actually paid for(thought the Sunfire front end was ugly)! My dad also had a Cimarron that I liked back in the day(although I do concede that the j body should never have been a Caddy).

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